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Dedicating His Life So Others Could Live Their Own

Andrew Cray is being honored posthumously as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

Andrew Cray

Andrew Cray is being honored posthumously as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

Andrew Cray dedicated his life to making sure others could live their own.  

Every day, Andrew fought tirelessly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, Americans to be treated with dignity and fairness. His work touched so many lives in so many ways, from working to secure protections for LGBT homeless youth to collaborating with the Obama Administration to implement the Supreme Court’s marriage equality rulings. At the center of his work, however, was his belief that the foundation of equality rests on the ability of all Americans to access comprehensive, affordable, and inclusive health care.  

Andrew was just 28 years old when cancer tragically took his life this past August, but his passion for equity in and access to health insurance existed long before his diagnosis. As a transgender man, Andrew knew the challenges and the needs of the LGBT community personally and was all too familiar with the common occurrence of transgender people being denied insurance simply because of their gender identity, as well as with the startling statistics. According to a recent Center for American Progress report, one in three LGBT people with incomes at or below 4 times the federal poverty line lacked insurance, and 72% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people reported experiencing discrimination when attempting to find coverage through their employer for a same-sex partner. The eternal optimist that he was, Andrew believed that, with the right reforms and the improvements, those numbers could change.

Like many LGBT Americans, Andrew saw the Affordable Care Act as a vehicle for change and an opportunity to open up life-saving medical care to a community too often systemically and financially excluded. After passage, he worked with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to end discrimination against LGBT people by health insurance companies. He collaborated with the federal government and state governments to ensure accurate data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, which will serve as the foundation of future LGBT health advocacy. Andrew also worked with various partners to ensure that many of the new insurance options were inclusive of same-sex couples and transgender Americans.

As important as these reforms are, he also knew that, for the law to work, people needed to be educated and enrolled, which is why he, along with colleagues at the Center for American Progress, Sellers Dorsey, and the Federal Agencies Project, co-founded Out2Enroll. Over the last year, Out2Enroll has helped educate and connect countless LGBT Americans with their new coverage options under the Affordable Care Act. 

All of this work took on a new meaning for Andrew when, in September 2013, he was diagnosed with cancer. Throughout his treatment, he continued his legal advocacy and outreach work but also decided to utilize his personal story to convince young Americans, including young LGBT Americans, to enroll in health insurance. In an op-ed in The Advocate, Andrew wrote, “Our LGBT community is resilient and strong, and particularly for those of us who are young and have our entire lives in front of us, it may feel like we are invincible. I’ve learned the hard way that I’m not.”

Several months later, this past July, Andrew found out that his cancer had returned and that it was terminal. As his partner, and soon to be wife, I sat with Andrew as we discussed what he wanted to do with the time he had left. He said he wanted to continue his life’s work: fighting to ensure that all Americans, including LGBT Americans, can access life-saving medical care.

One month later, Andrew passed away far too quickly and far too young, but the benefits of his work live on. As he wrote in The Advocate last March, “Cancer has taken a lot from me physically and emotionally. But it hasn’t taken away my voice…I want to make sure other young LGBT people understand why getting covered is so important. I hope that my community will listen when I say — please, take care of yourselves. Be out, be healthy, and get covered."

Sarah McBride is the Special Assistant for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress and authored this blog post on behalf of Andrew Cray. Andrew Cray was a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. He was her husband and colleague.